Email marketing is a high-impact, low-cost way of delivering your marketing message to current customers and prospects — if, that is, you have a great email list. If you don’t, this article is for you. Read on for the most effective and creative ways to build your email list.
If your email list is short, scant on information, full or errors and redundancies, or just not on-track with your targeting, that poor-quality data can be worse than having no data at all! Without a good email list, all your other digital marketing efforts are little more than wheel spinning.
There’s a lot to be said for the human touch, and these ideas rely on good old-fashioned human interaction to help you build your email list.
Build your email list the right way
1. Put out the sign-up sheet
Whether you’re at a trade show, community event or in your own storefront, collecting email addresses in person can be as easy as putting out a signup sheet and encouraging people to write down their details.
2. Leverage business cards
When you meet people face to face for any reason, ask for their business card. Offer yours. Set a glass bowl on the counter in your store or the reception desk in your office, and ask visitors to drop their cards in it. Offer some incentive to do so — a free product or service, gift card, etc. Use your own business cards to further drum up emails; add an offer on the back of your card that encourages people to sign up to receive your emails.
3. Host an event
Stage an event — lunch gathering, topic talk, book club or whatever works to get people in the door. Drop invitations at nearby businesses, post the notice on your front door, and advertise in local media. Ask people to RSVP with their email addresses.
4. Invite people to ‘join the club’
Offer a birthday or anniversary club that allows people to “enroll” by providing their email address and relevant date. Reward them with a special offer for signing up, and follow up with something else special, such as a discount coupon, on their birthday or anniversary date.
5. Organize a giveaway
Using snail mail and/or your existing email list, send people a postcard asking for email information and offer them a reward for providing it.
6. Drum up emails with direct mail
Sometimes you have a physical address but no email address. Send a direct-mail offer they can only get by going to your website and joining your email list.
7. Try some telemarketing
Throughout the day, you and your employees probably interact with many customers and prospects on the phone. Before you hang up, always ask if they would like to join your email list. Give them a brief statement of the benefits of enrolling — for example, exclusive offers and discounts only available to email subscribers.
8. Optimize your website for opt-ins
If a customer or prospect visits your website, they’re already at least somewhat interested. Don’t miss the opportunity to add them to your email list. Include email registration forms on every main page of your site, as well as on the pages for popular products and services.
9. Build with your blog
Your blog provides a great way to build a personal relationship with customers and prospects — and to gather their email addresses. Consistently end blogs with a call to action that encourages readers to sign up for your email messages. Require blog visitors to provide an email list in order to leave comments, and set it up so that they have to actively opt out if they don’t want their email address included on your mailing list.
10. Engage through social media
Social media participation can allow you to reach new audiences and make new connections. Stay abreast of trending topics that are of interest to your customers and prospects. Use social media to encourage people to visit one of the channels where they can sign up for your email list.
11. Don’t give up on bouncebacks
Everyone hates to see the dreaded bounceback alert in their inbox. If you have snail-mail information to match an email address, send a postcard asking the contact to provide you with an updated email address so you can stay in touch. Consider rewarding them with a discount or freebie for taking the time to respond.
12. Piggyback on a colleague’s efforts
Consider sharing email lists with neighboring businesses. Offer them space in your newsletter in exchange for including a link with your opt-in form in their newsletter.
13. Don’t let website visitors get away
If a visitor gets through your entire website without opting in, grab them one last time before they go. Set a lightbox to appear asking for an email address whenever someone is about to navigate away from your website or blog.
14. Create an online community
Platforms like BuddyPress for WordPress make it easy to set up a community and foster interaction between your brand and your customers. Include a sign-up form for your newsletter on every page of the community.
15. Leverage ‘email only’ specials
Reward your loyal email followers with specials that are only available to subscribers. Encourage them to forward the link to your sign-up page to friends and family.
16. Don’t forget your own email
Be sure every email you send has an opt-in form so that anyone who receives one of your emails via forward from someone else, can sign up directly to be on your list.
17. Use Foursquare
Offer a reward for customers who buy something from you and show that they checked in at your business on Foursquare using their mobile device. When they do this, they’re telling everyone in their network that they’ve done business with you. Each month, reward the person who gave you the greatest exposure by offering a discount, and asking for their email address.
18. Be active on blogs and forums
Frequent the blogs and forums your customers do and offer insightful comments. Include a link to your website where visitors will find your opt-in form.
19. Get employees involved
Reward employees for collecting valid, testable email addresses. Remember to have them obtain the person’s consent before giving you the email address for your list.
20. Encourage customers with a daily deal
Daily deal sites can be useful for retail or local service businesses. Offer your discount (daily deal) through the site for a limited time and ask anyone who wants to grab the deal to provide their email address in exchange.
21. Word of mouth still rocks
Ask current and new customers to refer new subscribers to your list. Sweeten the deal by offering them a discount as a reward for valid, confirmed and consent-backed email addresses.
22. Encourage forwarding
When you send an email, include a forward-to-a-friend link in case recipients want to forward your content to someone they think will find it interesting. Make sure the link directs newcomers to a page with your opt-in form.
23. Serve up a sandwich board
Sandwich boards are nothing new, but what about using one in a new way? Place one on the sidewalk in front of your storefront or office to advertise your newsletter and offer a reward to anyone who signs up. Invite customers into the store to enroll, or give them the web address where they’ll find your opt-in form.
24. Use receipts
Customize your credit card receipt with a field/line where customers can jot down their email address while they’re signing. Or, simply ask them to write their address on the back of the receipt. At the end of the day, enter the addresses into your database and send out a welcoming email.
25. Take it to the street fair
Spring, summer, winter, and fall — your community probably has at least one street fair or similar event throughout the year. Participate in the event and collect email addresses right at the fair. Sweeten the deal by offering new subscribers a discount on their first (or next) purchase in exchange for sharing the email with you.
26. Encourage competition
Sponsor a video contest in which customers create a one-minute video about why they like your business, products or services. Ask them to send the videos to you and post them to your Facebook page. Invite visitors to vote on which video should win a cash or merchandise prize. Include an email opt-in on your Facebook page. Be sure to follow Facebook’s rules regarding contests.
27. Go mobile
When you’re out in the world at a tradeshow, business meeting or other public forum, use your smartphone to collect email addresses. And be sure to include an email opt-in with your business’ mobile app. If you offer the app for free download through your website, “charge” users the “price” of their email address in order to download the app.
28. Inside-the-box ideas
If you ship products, it’s a perfect opportunity to expand your email list at no cost! Include an inbox request on a card inside every package you ship. Be sure to tout your “email only” offers and direct recipients to your website’s opt-in form. After they join, redirect them to a page where they’ll receive their first promotional offer.
29. Make it more than just a bill
When you send out an invoice, include an option to sign up for email communications with you. Again, sweeten the deal by offering an incentive such as a discount or free shipping on the next order as a reward for providing email addresses.
30. Signs of the times
Include a link to your opt-in page in the signature of all your emails, personal and professional.
31. Network for emails
Join your local Chamber of Commerce or another business networking group. Email the member list (if it’s opt-in) about your services and include a link to sign up for your emails and newsletter.
32. Download freebies
That e-book or buying guide you created to establish thought leadership in your industry can also help build your email list. When visitors to your website request a free download, ask them to complete your opt-in form in order to download.
33. Speak up for yourself
Speaking engagements are a great way to establish your company as active in the community, but you can also weave into your talk the idea that more information can be found on your website. Offer free consultations in exchange for signing up for your newsletter and emails.
34. Giving it all away
Every month, offer a giveaway of a valuable or fun item to anyone who signs up for your email list.
35. Subscriber-only access
Everyone likes the feeling of being in on something exclusive. Offer your email subscribers something only they can get. It might be a special discount. It could be access to a video, e-book or another piece of useful content. Promote the availability of this exclusive access in order to encourage more email enrollments.
36. Give them subscription options
People like more choices, so consider creating subscription levels that let people sign up to receive content that’s relevant to them. For example, if you sell widgets and tax advice, provide three options on your opt-in form that allow users to sign up to receive info about widgets, info about tax advice or both. Further customize by allowing them to designate how frequently they’d like to hear from you — weekly, monthly or only when something really special is going on. People may be more likely to sign up for your email list if they have some control over the content they’ll receive.
37. Don’t forget the power of print
Add a QR code (a bar code that people can scan with a smartphone app) to print ads, direct-mail post cards and other printed marketing materials. Use the code to allow people to opt-in to your email list simply by scanning the code.
38. Leverage testimonials
Make your opt-in form extra convincing by including testimonials from current email subscribers touting the quality of your content.
39. Create a teachable moment
Are you an expert in something people want to know about, like weight loss, home improvement, cooking, etc.? Promote an exclusive online email course available only to subscribers.
40. Reel them in with a scroll box
Visitors to your website might overlook the call to sign up that you have at the top of every page, but it’s harder to ignore a lightbox or pop-up. Scroll boxes pop up on visitors’ screens after they’ve scrolled down a certain length of the page. The box encourages them to sign up for your email list. They can be effective for encouraging a user who’s already shown interest in your content (by staying on the page long enough to scroll) to sign up for your email list.
Building an email list takes time and is critical to marketing success in the digital age. What tactics do you use to collect more emails?